Letters to the Editor, February 6

Untouchable Islam? Sir, - Many of the Muslims protesting the Danish/European publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad are the same ones who, through their own media, regularly publish cartoons and televise programs depicting rabbis drinking the blood of Muslim children, denying the Holocaust, comparing Sharon to Hitler and Israelis to Nazis. I guess it's only Islam that is untouchable. Everything else is fair game ("Syrians attack European embassies over caricature," February 5). ARSEN OSTROVSKY Sydney Sir, - It is an offense to Muslim religious sensibilities to depict the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), especially in a derogatory fashion. Israel, which strongly respects all peoples' religious sensibilities, should make clear that it protests the recent violation of this principle of common civility. STEVE AMDUR Olivone, Switzerland Sir, - Jewishness means acute tolerance of and respect for others' religious beliefs. Israel, in its own words and its own way, should join the protests against this caricature of the Muslims' Prophet in a Danish newspaper. GUILHERME ALBAGLI Bahia, Brazil Sir, - Nobody should apologize for the Danish cartoon showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Irrational Muslim mystical beliefs have caused much misery, destruction and death in the world, and continue to do so. Combined with an explicit Koranic sanctioning of violence against "non-believers" they have been allowing Islamic terrorists to rationalize and morally justify their vicious killings. An apology would amount to the same kind of abject appeasement that has allowed Islamic dictatorships like Iran and Saudi Arabia to spread Islamic mysticism and sponsor Islamist terrorism using money from oil that would not have been discovered without the application of reason, science and Western technology. If anyone owes an apology, it's those who seriously believe in the dogma that drives and sanctions the Islamic terrorists. And as long as such dogma is believed, it deserves not only ridicule, but scorn. GLENN WOICESHYN Calgary, Alberta Sir, - The Arab world and its Muslim adherents must come to the realization that many of us do not care to be defined as infidels, or be subject to Muslims' behavior. In fact many of us find theology - and Islam in particular, with its determinism in daily living - neither desirable nor needed. And some of us care about the freedom of the press. Those cartoons may have been in poor taste. But what kind of taste is shown by the young Palestinians who fire assault rifles into the air to punctuate their ardor as they sack foreign embassies and proclaim that Christians churches will be burned? I do not see the point of such frenzy over a cartoon. True, the Koran and its prophet are considered sacred by their adherents. But that does not apply to the rest of us. I do not consider either the Prophet Muhammad or the Koran sacred entities. To me what matters is simply this: On the Day of Judgment, if such a day comes, when I am asked to provide a rationale for my life, I will state: I have struggled to leave the earth better than how I found it. I have done my part. HUGO STANCHI NAHUEL Portland, Oregon Sir, - How come those who don't seem that bothered by suicide bombing and hostage-taking are so sensitive to a cartoon? ROSEMARY LEVIN Cape Town ...it's a sad time Sir, - Don't rush out to celebrate Europe's new war with the Muslims. Just the opposite: For all of us here, and Jews abroad, this should be a very sad time. While it is good that Europe is perhaps seeing certain things as we do here in Israel, the opening shots she fired in this round were across the wrong battlefield. While Europe should stand up for her principles, the right to be racist is not one of them. Europe would accomplish a lot more for peace in the Middle East, and between herself and the Muslim world, if she simply kept to the professional criticism she has aired these past few weeks over Hamas and Iran. That, really, is the best way of standing on principle, while making your opponent understand and respect you. ALEX BEN-ARIEH Tel Aviv Sir, - The Muslim response to these Danish cartoons is the first time I have even come close to feeling threatened and angered in my own country. It is very sad to see the world's Muslims deciding that a cartoon deserves boycotts, diplomatic recriminations, even death threats. The West's concept of freedom of expression appears lost on them. Muslim faith must be tremendously weak and fragile to have a cartoon cause such a fuss. As for me - I am going to break out my copy of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses and read it with a cup of tea. RANDY OLSON Canada Fighting ourselves Sir, - In Israel the Kassam rockets continue to fall ("IDF vows harsh response to Kassam attacks," February 5). But how can we focus on fighting terrorism when Jews are too busy battling amongst themselves? Have we forgotten who our enemy is? EMILY MARKS Haifa Amona aftermath Sir, - As I write, three of my neighbors are comforting their teenagers. One sweet and brave daughter lies in the hospital with broken ribs after being beaten by the police in Amona - she was protesting peacefully. Another young man, a soldier, is attending the funeral of his best friend, killed while serving in the IDF. A third young neighbor is now debating whether to join the army: Once looking forward to defending Israel, he now worries that he will have to expel his own people from their homes ("Settlers prepare rally, suits vs police, Olmert," February 5). LEAH URSO Jerusalem Sir, - The youth involved in the Amona clashes concluded that the only way to change course and prevent the present policies of the Israeli government was through violence. They have lost faith in their leadership, which let them down in Gaza. It is my profound belief as a Holocaust survivor, US army veteran and retired police officer that as long as there are such young people, there is hope for Israel. STEVE GURE Coconut Creek, Florida Sir, - The settlers in the Amona episode are mistaken in believing that the police were specifically violent toward them. Police are trained to deal with riots and demonstrations. Fortunately, most of the time they just train for such situations, or wait around for something to happen. That could be very boring. So when a perceived opportunity presents itself they are avid to show their skills, whether it is against Israeli Arabs in Wadi Ara , Israeli Jews in Amona - or, for that matter, university students in Tel Aviv, should the occasion arise. YITZHAK BERMAN Bet El Sir, - It was clear from the declarations of police and of government officials prior to the evacuation of Amona that there was to be no tolerance whatsoever. To the policemen that apparently meant: Strike first and ask questions later. Protesters' presence makes them guilty, and against the guilty there are no "reasonable and necessary" limitations. The police and government are clearly responsible for applying wrong standards, and those who committed unjustified acts of violence should be punished. On the other hand, there is the principle of "assumption of risk." The settlers and their supporters who acted violently had to expect a reaction by the police. There is a third side: Once again right-wing leaders found an opportunity to harm their cause. There was nothing to gain by violent resistance. They should have learned that a government decision cannot be changed "in the street." Their reaction was counterproductive, and served only to bolster the left-wing position. These leaders must learn that there is no alternative to convincing the public. It may take longer than violence, but it can and should be done. TZVI MEIR Jerusalem Tattered democracy Sir, - David Horovitz claims elections give us the opportunity to make our voices heard, especially when they offer clear political choices ("A self-imposed terror attack," February 3). Not in Israel. In the last elections Amram Mitzna advocated a limited, unilateral withdrawal from a small number of isolated Jewish communities in Gaza. Ariel Sharon, after defeating Mitzna by a landslide, proceeded to implement an more extreme version of Mitzna's policy. He torpedoed the idea of holding a referendum on such a radical reversal of the platform that got him elected. Now, incredibly, Israel is governed by a party that did not even run in an election. Israel's democracy is in tatters, and the idea of accountability by MKs is a farce. When the democratic process collapses, violence should come as no surprise. YISRAEL WOOLF Ma'aleh Adumim Sir, - Elections do express the will of the people, as David Horovitz suggests, but only if the people are aware of the issues. The distorted information the public is often fed by the media in order to promote a partisan agenda makes rational judgment impossible. L. BLASS Jerusalem Poll sans pol Sir, - Given the influence of polls on our political culture one would hope they are conducted fairly. My recent phone experience: The pollster asked whom I would vote for if elections were held tomorrow and read a list of possibilities, beginning "Likud, Kadima under Ehud Olmert, Labor under Amir Peretz...." Thinking I might have misheard, I asked her to read the list again. She did so, in the same manner, omitting the name of Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Asked if she had done this on purpose, she replied, "I don't know." I have never voted Likud, but am convinced the question was constructed to minimize the chances of my declaring any intention to do so. JULIAN SINCLAIR Jerusalem